As if stabbed in the heart, I clenched my chest in pain. I curled up into a ball as tears soaked my pillow. I dreamt of throwing my offender against the wall. Eventually, I awakened in less pain, yet a dull ache of rejection remained. I have experienced this more than once, taking days, months, and sometimes years to release the offender into the hands of the Father.
Have you been here? Have you struggled with forgiving someone who has wounded you deeply?
Several years ago I grieved as someone I loved dearly was falsely accused by someone else who had held onto unforgiveness for too many years. I didn’t just grieve, I stewed for months, attempting to find the right words to confront the slanderer. But the accuser’s unforgiveness served as a stark warning to my own struggles in that department. It prompted me to examine carefully Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:15:
“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (NIV).
I grew up hearing that other than the “unpardonable sin”, Jesus always forgave us. Could unforgiveness be the blasphemous sin mentioned in Matthew 12:31? Why is our Father unwilling to forgive us if we don’t forgive others? So, I applied some deductive reasoning to Jesus’ warning.
To believe we can’t forgive someone is to say that person is unforgiveable. If that person is unforgiveable, then Christ’s death is not strong enough to forgive that person. If Christ’s death is not strong enough to forgive one person, then His death is not strong enough to forgive any person, including me. I am, therefore, without hope.
On the converse, if Christ’s death is enough for me, it is enough for the person who has offended me. When it comes to Christ’s redemptive work on the cross, it’s an all or nothing deal.
Frankly, I believe that deep inside we don’t question whether our offender is worthy of forgiveness nearly as much as we doubt our own worthiness. If we are honest with ourselves, we will realize we think Christ’s death is not strong enough for US.
So maybe it’s not really about whether or not our Father in Heaven forgives us, but whether or not we receive it. Because once we have received God’s forgiveness deep into our core, we can extend it to the those who have wounded—even betrayed—us.
It really does boil down to a faith issue. A salvation issue.
Is Christ’s death enough for you? Truly? If not, get on your face before God; get into His Word; seek counsel; walk this out in faith. None of us deserve forgiveness—at all. But God offers it to us anyway. Believe it. Receive it. Extend it.
copyright February 2016 by Cheri Johnson